Re: Seely's Views

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Date: Thu Aug 19 2004 - 02:21:21 EDT

Glenn wrote,

> PHS 7. On scientific issues, I cannot find any revelation which
> >tells me God has revealed such matters; and I can often see
> >from the science of the times that they match the science of
> >the times; and this carries through from Genesis to
> >Revelation. The consistent finding of ancient science in the
> >Bible tells me this area of knowledge is accommodation, not
> >revelation.
> GRM Can you cite examples of this?

The first example in the Bible is Gen 1:6-8: the firmament with half of a
primeval sea above it. The water above has been modernized by "conservatives" as
a reference to clouds, but for the reasons I gave in my original paper as well
as the reasons given by Dillow in his book [The Waters Above: Earth's
Pre-Flood Canopy (Chicago: Moody, 1981)], clouds is not a viable interpretation. Nor
is it a vapor canopy again for the reasons given in my original paper and in
my Flood paper; and some of the reasons it is not clouds also apply to the
supposed vapor canopy. The "waters above the firmament" are the waters of the
tehom (Sea) of v. 2 which has been split in two by the firmament.

There is a Babylonian document telling the kinds of stone the heavens are
made of, and the Babylonian document uses the cognate to the Hebrew shamayim,
"heavens." The outstanding parallel is in the Babylonian "creation account"
(Enuma elish) which tells of Marduk splitting the water goddess Tiamat (which is a
cognate of the Hebrew tehom, which is used in Gen 1:2 and is the sea split in
two in Gen 1:6-8), and then using half of her body to make the sky, which is
bolted so that the waters above do not come down unrestrained (as occurred at
the time of the Flood). The other half of Tiamat's body is used to make the
earth with the other half of the sea beneath, but coming up through her eyes to
provide the water of the Tigris and the Euphrates; so there is a tie in with
physical geography. Of course in the case of the solid firmament, virtually all
peoples accepted it as a physical part of the universe. So we are not talking
metaphors here, but the science of the day. The sea above the firmament is not
a universal belief as was the firmament itself , but it was found in Egypt
and most clearly in Mesopotamia.

In an article reviewing the various claims that Genesis was dependent upon
Babylonian sources, W.G. Lambert, one of the most respected names in ancient
Near Eastern studies, set out to cut the claims down to size; but when he came to
the waters above the firmament he concluded from the fact that only the
Babylonian and biblical stories of creation have the splitting of the primeval
waters that Genesis 1:6-8 was dependent upon the Babylonian. (There actually are
two other creation accounts that mention the splitting of the primeval waters
but for reasons other than the splitting of the waters, they are judged to have
been corrupted by biblical input via missionaries.)

So, the Babylonian conception of a solid sky with a sea above it matches the
Hebrew conception.

Two reasons this has not been appreciated is because it causes cognitive
dissonance in those who want the Bible to line up with modern science (at least to
the point of not denying the "car crash"), and some Evangelical OT professors
would probably lose their jobs if they did not avoid the subject. Yet, in
fact, Gen 1:6-8 lines up with the ancient science. The other reason is that few
people have read the ancient Near Eastern literature, and have no idea of the
match. But, John Walton, professor of OT at Moody for some years and now
professor of OT at Wheaton, does have the near Eastern background; and after he read
my papers recognized that what I was saying about the cosmology of Gen 1 was
true. He accordingly incorporated this, which he calls "old world science,"
into his 2003 commentary on Genesis, citing my papers as documentation. He is
now writing a monograph on the Cosmology of Genesis to be published by the
preeminent Christian publisher of OT and ancient Near Eastern books, Eisenbrauns.

Last week I discovered a new (2003) commentary on Genesis by John Currid,
Ph.D. from the Oriental Institute of the U. of Chicago, one of the finest schools
in ancient Near Eastern studies in the world. He teaches OT at the Reformed
Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss. He rejects higher criticism and takes a
very strong view of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, saying. "History is
'his story' and the Bible relates that history truthfully and accurately. The
Scriptures are thus the inerrant words of the sovereign Lord." (p. 14) When he
comes to Gen 1:6-8, he says, "The Hebrews believed the raqia' [firmament] was
a solid mass." He gives various cross references and linguistic reasons for
this interpretation and references my paper on the firmament. Regarding the
waters above the firmament, he says, "Many see it as merely figurative language
for terrestrial clouds or a water canopy between the earth and the sun.
Actually, it should be taken at face value to mean 'a large body of water, a sea,
above a solid firmament, which firmament serves as a roof to the universe and
under which firmament are the sun, moon and stars.'" (p. 65) The quote is from
part 2 of my paper on the firmament and the water above.

The primeval Sea, the Tehom, of Gen 1:2, which is split in two and half of it
placed above the solid sky is translated "Abyss" in the LXX, reflecting the
ancient idea that this sea was unfathomable. The science here is thus the
science of its time and does not correspond to the findings of modern science.

An example of ancient science near the end of the Bible is found in Rev 6:13
which says, "the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its
unripe figs when shaken by a great wind." These stars are not just meteors for
the next verse tells of the rolling up of the sky itself. This is the
dissolution of the universe, with the stars falling literally INTO (Greek, eis) the
earth. The language is taken from Isaiah's judgment on the nations (34:4), but
here refers to the end of the age as Mk 13:25/Matt 24:29 bear out. Lucan (1st
century AD) illustrates the fact that people of that time distinguished meteors
from stars: in his historical work Pharsalia 5:560, he says, "By now the wind
was blowing so hard that it seemed not only to change the course of the
meteors as they streaked across the sky, but to shake the very stars." In Book 2,
Lucretius (1st century BC), On the Nature of Things, also distinguishes stars
from meteors.
As far as actual stars hitting the earth in the end times, the idea is found
also in the Sibylline Oracles (2nd BC to 7th AD). Book 2:202 speaks of the
heavenly vault being destroyed and "_all_ the stars will fall from heaven" Book
5:512 ff. speaks of the stars battling until heaven in anger "cast them
headlong to earth" and "stricken into the baths of the ocean they quickly kindled
the whole earth. But the sky remained _starless._" Book 7:124-5 tells of the
last days when "men, burning badly will look on heaven, _void of stars."_

From our modern point of view, just one star hitting the earth would
annihilate it; but most people in the ancient world thought the stars were as small as
they appear. Pliny the Elder 1st century AD) thought none were smaller than
the moon, but says most people believed they were as small as they appear
(Natural History 2:105), Seneca (1st century AD), who was well educated and served
as a councilor to Nero, wrote to refute the idea that a large comet was
composed of stars. He wrote, "How many stars then would have to come together in
order to produce a body of such size? Although you pack a thousand of them
together in one place they would never equal the size of our sun." (Natural Que
stions 7:15:11).

Even Augustine several centuries later considered the question of whether the
stars were a great distance away or as small as they appear, and concluded
not once but twice that they were as small as they appear (Letters of St.
Augustine 14:3 (NPNF 1:231); The Literal Meaning of Genesis, commenting on 1:16). In
fact, when I was in college I met a college graduate from India and while
walking to dinner beneath a star-filled sky, I casually mentioned how amazing it
was that the stars could look so small yet be larger than our sun. He was
shocked and said, No, they are just little things.

There are othr examples, but space forbids; so here is my plan: I plan to
offer a $10.000 reward to anyone who can prove that any reference to science in
the Bible is in advance of the science of the times---as soon as you put up the
money ;-).


More to follow on your other comments..
Received on Thu, 19 Aug 2004 02:21:21 EDT

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